By 1804 the black African slaves in the western portion of the island (now Haiti) rebelled against the French and ruled the entire island.
French troops eventually reclaimed the island, but were able to occupy only the western end.
Dominicans have migrated from rural areas to the cities.
The capital, Santo Domingo, has over 2.14 million people, while the population of other large cities, including Santiago de los Caballeros, La Romana, and San Pedro de Macorís, ranges from 124,000 to 364,000.
Independence was won before slavery was abolished in the Spanish Caribbean and a century before the decolonization of the other islands.
Sixteen percent is Caucasian and 11 percent is black, which includes a Haitian minority.
The central region is dominated by the Cordillera Central (central range) which ends at the Caribbean Sea.
The highest point in the Caribbean is Pico Duarte, which reaches an elevation of over 10,414 feet (3,175 meters) and has alpine forests near the summit.
The mountains of the Dominican Republic divide the country into northern, central, and southwestern regions.
The northern region includes the Cordillera Septentrional (northern mountain range), the Cibao Valley, which is the country's major agricultural area; and the tropical Samaná Peninsula with its coconut plantations and bay, where humpback whales breed.
Estimates of the birth rate range from seventeen per thousand (1994) to twenty-five per thousand (2000 estimated).